Who's that man in tights holding a big black stick?

6th May 2005 at 01:00
The State Opening of Parliament is to be broadcast live on BBC1, BBC News 24 and BBC Parliament on May 17. The Queen arrives just after 10.45am and processes to the Lords at about 11.20am . At about 11.30am Black Rod will be sent to summon the MPs. The best time to watch with your pupils is 11.20am until the speech begins. You could focus on the following:

* explain that the speech takes place in Parliament because it used to be a royal palace in which kings lived and to which they summoned their parliament

* notice the way the Lords are dressed in strange ceremonial garb

* point out that this is one of the few chances to see the Queen sitting on her throne

* notice that when the Queen enters the Lords, the lights that have been dimmed beforehand are turned up

* how Black Rod approaches the Commons to summon the MPs, but they slam the door in his face

* how he knocks on the door three times and the Commons Sergeant at Arms looks through the door grille to see who is there. When the doorkeeper announces "Black Rod", he opens up

* children can listen for the announcement from Black Rod at the Commons:

"The Queen commands this honourable house to attend Her Majesty immediately in the House of Peers."

* the Sergeant at Arms carries the mace from the Commons, leading the Speaker and Members of the Commons to the Lords

* as MPs follow the Sergeant at Arms to the Lords we see party leaders, who have been tearing strips out of each other in an election, chatting and strolling happily towards the bar

* when they reach the House of Lords, the MPs cannot go right in. They have to crowd around the doorway

* notice how people walk backwards, away from the Queen.

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